What do you do when you have a robust event management business where you can organise functions from 50 people to 2,000; are accredited to the best hotels and venues as the preferred supplier; have your own restaurant in the glitzy end of town at King Street Wharf where celebrities like legendary Australian cricketer Steve Waugh and broadcaster Alan Jones host friends, family and colleagues; a function centre at Concord which hosts gala events; two long-standing restaurants in trendy Balmain and suburban Wollongong where the locals line up for their curry nights, and frequently front up to the media such as in the SBS docuseries Turban Legends?
Suffice it to say, your plate is pretty full.
And then COVID-19 strikes, and there’s a paradigm shift.
The State government brings in new restrictions on gatherings and the number of people that can now attend parties, social distancing measures come into effect, and the whole mindset of the public is to bunker down in their personal space rather than to venture out. The city of Sydney grinds to a halt and hospitality venues feel the full force of COVID-19.
Speaking to Indian Link, Deep Gujral, Managing Director of well-known restaurant Manjit’s, said with steely resolve, “We faced this situation full frontal in March this year when bookings got cancelled and functions were indefinitely postponed. The whole business model came to a standstill. But, as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
He explains, “My father Manjit and mother Kanwal have over 70 years of joint experience in the hospitality industry in Australia. In fact, as a team, we doubt if anyone has more experience than them in the Indian food scene here. They have been through various economic changes which flow on to the food industry. Together with my brother Varun who runs the King Street Wharf restaurant, which has been awarded Two Hats by the Australian Good Food Guide in 2019 and 2020, we sat down and came up with a plan to work through the challenges of COVID 19.”
The plan involves getting out to the clients who cannot come in to Manjit’s.
“We cook great food which is appreciated by all, we have a great brand name in Manjit’s. So if people cannot come in to us due to COVID 19, we can take our food out to them. And so we launched Manjit’s Home. We will produce and distribute heat-and-eat home range of curries and make sure these food packs are available far and wide,” Deep said.
Much R&D went into Manjit’s Home curries. Being a heat-and-eat option, it was necessary to ensure the ingredients in the preparations keep their taste and flavour for their duration.
“It was important to us to keep our authenticity and also what we pride ourselves in – the quality of food we serve. Food scientists and food consultants were brought in to help us create nine options for our consumers in the Manjit Home product range. From the ever popular Butter Chicken and Rice, to Palak Paneer and Rice, there is food to suit every palate,” Deep said.
The purists at Manjit’s are aware that heat-and-eat packaged meals don’t always have the best reputation. “Yes, there is a stigma of them being cheap, easy, low quality and sometimes even nasty,” Deep admits. “These are attributes that were once upon a time shared by some for Indian cuisine in general. Manjit’s changed the game and has raised the profile of Indian cuisine over the past four decades. While our new products can still be something that you pick up from your local on the way home from work, we’re on a mission to reinvent the concept, delivering something fresh, hand-made and packaged, with the care and attention to quality that surpasses that alternatives on the shelf. Manjit’s has always offered ‘something different’, and that isn’t stopping now!”
The opportunities have been exciting, Deep revealed. “What has been a strong learning curve is the logistical exercise of distribution. We’ve been blown away by the demand, which has come from in far and wide – IGA outlets to service stations, Indian grocery stores to the Australian Navy. Interestingly, we have had a few gyms approach us to explore options of protein-based packs such as a chicken tikka pack – with all the flavours and no carbs.”
Contact Manjit’s Home on 02 9062 3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org